David Milliband - Britain's next Prime Minister?
The prospect of a hung parliament has already started to bring out the worst in our politicians. In particular, we are seeing how politicians are prepared to breach political ethics in order to advance personal or party self-interest. Of course, they will argue, at the end of the day that their self-interest and the interest of the nation are inseparable.
Just to give examples, we have already had our own local one in Fermanagh and South Tyrone. David Cameron has effectively torn up the Memorandum of Understanding, reached with the UUP. I don’t think that would have happened if the deteriorating position of Conservative electoral prospects had not loomed so large in the background.
A few weeks ago, I highlighted the policy of the Labour Party to hold a referendum on a change of the system of voting. It is a policy which Labour would never have concocted when it was in the ascendancy. There are many Labour politicians who still believe, like the Conservatives, that the first past the post system is the one which is most likely to lead to strong elected Government. Alas, the thinking behind the policy has little to do with the National interest. It is Gordon Brown’s pure self ambition to remain as Prime Minister.
If I was a novel writer, I would now be weaving a conspiracy theory into the facts. It is February 2010. Gordon Brown has just launched Labour’s green paper on changing the voting system. The Conservative position is weakening. Opportunities are knocking and two men, hungry for power, meet in the middle of the night at a secret location. One of them is Nick Clegg. The other is David Milliband.
Back to the facts. The Conservatives have declared, rightly, that they will not compromise on the first past the post system. Unfortunately, it is not likely that the system will survive. It is the one issue which shortens the odds of a Liberal – Labour coalition, rather than a Conservative – Liberal one.
Nick Clegg - Probably Britain's next "King maker"
Nick Clegg appears to have put obstacles in the way of a Lib/Lab coalition. He has said that the party with the Largest number of votes is the one which should have the primary right to be in power.
So, assuming that the Conservatives have the largest number of votes, he will be talking, firstly, with David Cameron. His next pre-condition, a change in the electoral system, has already been ruled out by the Conservatives, appearing to make a Con/Lib coalition inconceivable.
The other pre-condition that Nick Clegg has laid down is the demise of Gordon Brown as Prime Minister. How does he expect to achieve that? As a conspiracy theorist, I might have suggested that the path to power had already been mapped out for him.
Actually, my desire for a conspiracy is probably a back-door way of trying to underrate Nick Clegg. I will admit here that I did underrate him. A few weeks ago, it looked as though he would be a leader in charge of a party that lost a third of its seats to the Conservatives. Now he is on the verge of having some power. There are parallels between his position and the Earl of Warwick (“the King Maker”) during the Wars of the Roses.
It is possible for Clegg to generate a coup within Labour simply by positioning himself in the way he has just done. This could turn out to be one of the most brilliant political gambits of modern times. Once there is a hung parliament, the electorate will expect the Liberals to reach some sort of a deal and compromise. The Liberals will not get total PR from Labour but they will see the referendum as an opportunity to advance their policy. However, they will need to extract something from Labour to remain credible. Gordon Brown’s head on a platter will become the compromise.
There will be resistance to that scenario. Supporters of Gordon Brown will complain that they would be dancing to the tune of Nick Clegg.
However, there is much attraction in this scenario for Labour. They will have had renewal of their leadership without losing power. The acceptable and much more electable face of David Milliband will appear as Prime Minister. He will open the Olympic Games. The memory will be etched in the Public mind. By the time of the next election, the economy will have strengthened and the bad times will be well and truly over.
There are two apparent problems with that but I think they would be ignored. David Cameron has made the point that if there is an unelected Prime Minister, there has to be another General Election within 6 months. He can say that but there is really no precedent for this situation. Perhaps a more difficult problem for Labour is their internal rules. Gordon Brown will have to co-operate with the coup, to a certain extent. He would have to remain party leader for a couple of months until the new Prime Minister is officially elected. I believe, however, that Gordon Brown could be persuaded to go. There is something in it for him too. He can proudly proclaim himself as the man who led Labour and the country through the worst recession since the War. He would have his own legacy. As he sails off into the sunset, he might even manage a real smile.
Can Cameron do anything to stop this? He can win the election, of course but I am assuming that the Conservatives will not have enough seats to form a Government without a coalition.
David Cameron - Gambling first past the post may be the best way to try and save it
Perhaps there is one way that he can make it very awkward for Clegg. He can offer a referendum changing the voting system to AV, just as Labour has done. This is a risk with the system which he may have to take as being the lesser of two evils.
Some Conservatives would find this very difficult to swallow. It is not in their manifesto and they might balk at having to explain this apparent “u” turn to the public. However, Cameron has the communication skills to deal with that.
If they did such a deal, the Conservatives would be in a stronger position to campaign against the change while in power. Furthermore, Labour MPs in opposition, particularly those who were reluctant will not feel so bound by their own policy and be more likely to campaign against it.
We have never had so much uncertainty in British Politics. It is now looking increasingly certain, firstly, that Nick Clegg will be the “Kingmaker” and secondly, that we will still not know Britain’s next Prime Minister by May 7th.
Filed under: Conservative Party, David Cameron, Gordon Brown, Labour Party, Liberal Democrats, UCUNF, Voting System, Westminster | Tagged: Conservative Party, David Cameron, David Milliband, David Milliband, General Election, Gordon Brown, Hung Parliament, Labour Party, Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg, UCUNF, Voting System, Westminster | Leave a Comment »